GHYS 2018 Gives Students a 'Future' Glimpse into Global Health
July 12, 2018 | Stephanie Miceli | Originally published by PHI's Global Health Fellows Program II
MULTIPLE CAREERS: THE NEW NORMAL IN GLOBAL HEALTH
A Parliamentarian turned nonprofit executive, a pediatrician and youth advocate, and a professor who’s on the ballot in November might have little in common - other than their divergent paths to global health.
But their message to students at the 2018 Global Health Youth Summit (GHYS) was consistent: prepare for multiple careers.
“You should be reinventing yourself every 15 years,” Keith Martin MD, PC, executive director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, told students during a June 20 panel discussion at GHYS.
With USAID’s support, for the third year, the Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II held GHYS with FACES for the Future Coalition, a program of the Public Health Institute. GHYS creates opportunities for high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to not only expand their knowledge of global health and network with professionals, but learn how their personal assets make them ideal for this field.
COMMUNITY ACTIVISM IS THE NEW RESIDENCY
To students’ surprise, most global health jobs don’t require a lab coat or medical degree.
“You have two physicians on this panel, but neither of us practice medicine full time. Dr. Martin is a politician who has worked abroad and loves literature. You can create the life you want,” said Tomas Magaña , MD, MA, founding director of the FACES for the Future Coalition.
Fellow panelist LaHoma Smith Romocki, PhD, associate professor at North Carolina Central University said she became captivated with global health when she realized it afforded the opportunity to improve the health of populations, not just one patient; to prevent disease, not just treat it.
“I grew up in rural New Mexico and just knew what I knew. I thought you have one career and you stick to it. I didn’t know you can be more than one ‘thing,’” said Alfredo D., a FACES Albuquerque scholar. “The concept of doctors being a politician or a community advocate - I didn’t know that existed.”
MENTORS PROVIDE CLARITY, CONFIDENCE
"You can come at global health from many angles. That's the best part," GHFP alum Carmen Tull, acting chief of child health and immunization at USAID, told students at a Flash Mentoring event later that afternoon.
After connecting with 15 USAID mentors - whose backgrounds spanned research, metrics and evaluation, and direct service delivery - Dayana O., a FACES Hayward scholar, said she has more clarity on the different kinds of global health work you can do.
Other students said the most valuable aspect of Flash Mentoring was learning about the breadth of USAID's global health programs.
Nicky H., a FACES South Alameda County scholar and University of California, Riverside-bound freshman, lit up when she learned about the Agency’s work with specific populations.
“As someone who identifies as Native American, I was excited and surprised to learn about the ways USAID serves the health of the community,” said Nicky.
“I learned you don’t need a degree in global health to be in this field. You can actually add value by having an outside perspective,” Lizette observed.
DEFINING GLOBAL HEALTH AS A LENS, NOT A GEOGRAPHY
Students asked panelists and their mentors how they chose global health work over domestic health.
”You don’t have to choose,” said Dr. Smith Romocki. She doesn’t define global health in terms of geography, but as a lens from which we approach our work.
“Global health is happening right on 17th Street in D.C.,” said Dr. Romocki.
For Alfredo, GHYS proved that in order to help your community, sometimes you have to leave.
“At GHYS, I gained access to different perspectives,” said Alfredo. “I can be an RN here in Albuquerque, but I can also have leadership roles within a hospital and do global operations."
She admitted she was delaying registration for her freshman orientation at the University of New Mexico. While she’s well aware that you don’t have to select a major before orientation, the stress of not knowing was overwhelming.
“For a long time, I thought about being a pediatrician, but really, I was only going into it to make people proud. Who wouldn’t want to tell people, ‘my daughter’s a pediatrician?’” said Amarisa.
“Global health would allow for more on-the-ground interaction with my community,” Amarisa added.
“During GHYS I learned that I am talented, well-spoken and that I want to be a public health worker in Albuquerque," said Amarisa.
“I’m still interested in nursing, but learned I’m not tied to one place. I can take it global,” said Sierra.
Your major and aspirations can change. But simply knowing you’re interested in global health can set you up for success, Cynthia Valentine told students later that week during a Howard University campus tour. Ms. Valentine, program manager of the Donald M Payne International Development Fellowship, confided she didn’t know about career possibilities in global health until her junior year at Howard.
“I don’t want to say it was too late by then,” she said. “But it was hard to strategize. As high schoolers, you're at a great place to strategize about the undergrad courses and internships you want to pursue to make you a strong applicant for opportunities in global health and development.”
Ms. Valentine also advised students to strengthen relationships with professors, especially since it can be challenging to build up references early in your career.
“Professors are a source of deeper learning, mentorship, and they can be references - a key component of a fellowship application,” she said.
As a professor herself, earlier that week, Dr. Smith Romocki offered similar advice during the panel, urging students to take advantage of office hours.
“My office hours are the quietest part of my week,” she said. “If you have questions, there’s no shame in asking. There’s shame in NOT asking.”
Lizette said she’ll be taking that advice to heart as she starts her senior year at Health Professions High School back in Sacramento.
“GHYS is an opportunity I never thought I'd get. I’m going to ask every possible question in college. From now on, I'm going to take risks, try new things and keep trying them.”
Photos by Ashlee Walker | Narrative by Stephanie Miceli